The Internet is coming to small town America in a big way.
And that’s not always a good thing.
Topix, a site that allows users to comment anonymously on their fellow residents, is causing problems in towns across America, the New York Times reports.
In Hyden, Ky. (population 365), the local forum had 107 visitors at the same time one afternoon this month. They encountered posts about the school system, a new restaurant and local arrests, as well as the news articles and political questions posted by Topix.
But more typical were the unsubstantiated posts that identified by name an employee at a dentist’s office as a home wrecker with herpes, accused a gas station attendant of being a drug dealer, and said a 13-year-old girl was “preggo by her mummy’s man.” Many allegations were followed with promises of retribution to whoever started the post.
“If names had been put on and tied to what has been said, there would have been one killing after another,” said Lonnie Hendrix, Hyden’s mayor.
So far there have not been any murders, but A.G Sulzberger reports on fights and divorces spawned by the site. He says that at least one woman is considering moving because of comments posted about her on the site.
Topix, which is owned by Gannett, Tribune, and McClatchy, cannot be sued for libel because it is an Internet forum. The people posting, however, can be if they are found out. Of course, justice in small towns rarely waits for the courtroom.
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